Rise of Nollywood drives first Africa OTT win for Cisco Infinite

Nigerian media group Envivo Communications has selected Cisco to power its new OTT streaming service, nVivo TV, for the African continent, pushing the idea that content produced by Nollywood (the Nigerian film industry) is the fastest growing form of video in the world.

We would argue that Bollywood is not yet at saturation point and represents a far larger market, given the booming mobile industry in India. Figures emerged this week showing India has overtaken the US to become the world’s second largest smartphone market behind China, shipping 40 million devices last quarter, according to research from Canalys.

However, the reported rise of Nigerian-grown content represents an opportunity to potentially mirror what is currently happening in India on a similar scale. India has a population of over 1.32 billion, while the whole African continent sits at around 1.2 billion – but growing at a much faster rate. The African market has a number of obvious hindrances to fully taking off, but the nVivo TV release cites smartphones becoming the norm for video viewing in the region, due to the low penetration of TV sets and an average of one cinema screen for every million people.

Cisco told Faultline Online Reporter that its high regard for Nollywood content comes from data supplied by the Nigerian government, which issues figures reflecting the growth of Nollywood compared to Bollywood. Most recent figures from 2014 showed that Nollywood was a $3.3 billion market at the time, surpassing Hollywood five years previously to become the second largest movie sector by volume, trailing Bollywood by a small margin. However, piracy continues to ravage the Nigerian film industry, meaning that only a small fraction of the revenue opportunity makes it to producers and other businesses involved.

Cisco is bringing a mix of OTT video products to the nVivo TV table, including the Infinite Video system built on technology from 1Mainstream, the business it acquired in October 2015, in what looks to be the first African deployment for Infinite Video since its launch (or rather, renaming) earlier this year. The new OTT service from Envivo Communications, set to launch in early 2018, is also using Cisco Open Media Distribution to handle CDN services, as well as the Virtual Media Packager and Cloud Object Storage products.

Infinite is hosted on AWS and provides a platform for reaching new audiences on multiple devices and Cisco claims there are no app development costs for customers, as it handles app building and interfaces with app store billing. Cisco says smaller customers typically move from app store billing to advertising monetization then build up their own ad teams.

The 1Mainstream part of the Infinite equation could be key to Cisco winning more customers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) where satellite delivery is relied upon more heavily, as the technology works by pulling live satellite feeds, then cleaning them, applying stream conditioning, then handing over a best effort mezzanine file. From there, Cisco puts in all the ABR manifests and also provides its own CMS, plus a categorization system with 4 layers.

In the past, the 1Mainstream system used Ericsson’s Envivio encoding and the Wowza streaming engine, but Cisco told us that it no longer supports these, but it does support the generic IAB VAST (Video Ad Serving Template) interface for a variety of programmatic advertising systems and has integrations with Conviva for client side analytics and plugs into CRM solutions from Paywizard and Evergent.

Interestingly, US technology vendor Vubiquity, one of the world’s largest multiplatform video services platform providers, is also a big provider of Nollywood content today, but Envivo has not released any details around content dealings for its soon-to-be launched streaming service.

Malaysian SVoD service iflix, which is posing a big challenge to Netflix, recently formed an African arm to spread its service to countries in the Sub-Saharan region, with headquarters in Cape Town, covering Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe in this quarter. Investments from Sky, PLDT and Catcha Group have aided iflix’s expansion efforts, as well as a recently signed a distribution deal with Disney.

Lionsgate’s Starz Play Arabia is another notable addition to the African market, making its quiet entry into the MENA region two years ago on the back of partnership between Starz and the Parsifal Entertainment Group. Starz says its $8 monthly offering reached 700,000 subscribers this summer. In recent months, Starz Play Arabia has introduced a download function for offline viewing, expanded telecom partnerships in North Africa, and expanded content partnerships to all major Hollywood studios. The company says that it will look outside the MENA region next as well, but we suspect to neighboring territories in the Gulf, rather than further afield.

Data from Digital TV Research projects OTT video revenues in Sub-Saharan Africa to reach $640 million by 2022, across 35 countries. The forecast, published in July, reports 10.2 million SVoD subscribers by 2022, rising from 525,000 at the end of 2016, with SVoD accounting for 74% of revenues, up from 40% last year.

Envivo Communications’ Chairman and CIO, Olu Obadina, said, “The vision of nVivo TV is to drive the African and African diaspora markets toward a new online streaming experience that provides significant domestic content. We understood from the onset that we needed a strategic partner like Cisco. With the Infinite Video Platform at the core of our network, we are able to meet our immediate requirements, with the scale and flexibility to expand as our needs evolve.”

Conrad Clemson, SVP and GM, Service Provider Platforms and Applications at Cisco, said, “Our collaboration with Envivo to expand its video platform with new cloud-powered streaming video capabilities will offer new entertainment experiences for millions of people across the region at the touch of an app.”